By 651 ARTS on April 17, 2017
As an AfroBoricua multidisciplinary artist and educator, Anthony Wash Rosado is here to ensure resources for marginalized artists, platforms for inter-community conflict resolution, and be an example of a strong Revolutionary Queer man of Taino and African descent for youth who need one. Here is his analysis of the NYC Cultural Plan.
I was born and raised in a city whose politicians commodify its many cultures and perpetually enforce capitalist gain by exploiting those who gardened our ever-gentrifying home. This is done to the liking of dream seekers reaching for the idea of an “urban experience.” I, however, am a truth seeker fighting to preserve the many beautiful cultures of NYC communities. My role is that of an investigator, questioning all information presented, especially when it directly impacts cultural legacy in my community.
As we foster the arts and culture of NYC, I am eager for more people to be fully aware of any contradictions that arise within citywide projects that affect all New Yorkers. Recently, based on legislation from city council sponsored by Jimmy Van Bramer and Steven Levin, the Department of Cultural Affairs has been tasked to develop New York City’s first Cultural Plan. Hailed as CreateNYC’s “roadmap to guide the future of arts and culture in NYC”, the NYC “comprehensive cultural plan” receives vital input from two committees appointed by the Mayor and Council Members. It’s development is guided by DLCA and a team of consultants who are supposed to put together a plan that is by New Yorkers for New Yorkers. The Plan’s mission is to address issues faced by and provide support to arts and cultural organizations of NYC. This is a project we must research, analyze, and critique. As I stand in my truth, I seek to inspire a citywide call-to-action demanding our constructive criticism and suggestions be implemented.
I attended the Brooklyn Cultural Plan Meeting at BRIC on December 6, 2016 eager to partake in a process that might support arts and cultural organizations who need resources most. After sifting through the workshop materials, I found myself questioning the CreateNYC’s Issues List. Why is there so much focus on the artist’s role in preserving culture? What about sustainable resources for cultural organizations and longstanding residents who selflessly nurture the arts and cultural environments of NYC? Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl acknowledged the need to preserve the cultures of NYC in his introduction, but I felt a twinge of doubt in my gut. He referenced the Issues List and I rose my hand before I could think of a question.
Finkelpearl continued talking of NYC’s cultural vibrancy, without the slightest acknowledgement of my hand. So, I stood raising my hand higher. Finkelpearl could ignore me no longer. I introduced myself and relayed my deeply rooted relationship with Brooklyn, New York City, and its many cultures. I expressed my confusion, “How can a citywide cultural plan be developed without consideration for the cultural erasure caused by forced mass displacement? Also, who has a seat at the table? It is not clear to me whether my input tonight will definitely be included in the NYC Cultural Plan’s decision-making process.”
I left that evening seeing the “cultural plan” for what it is: politicians throwing glitter in the air to trick communities into feeling involved in policy development and execution. This glitter overshadows the gentrification-inducing projects by partners of the NYC Cultural Plan. I left frustrated. I needed more information. While many of the mayoral and speaker’s appointees are incredible, I discovered there are no grassroots anti-displacement organizations nor local businesses owned by people of color appointed to lead this process.
Continuing my investigation, I was disappointed to find that Project Partners of the NYC Cultural Plan have played active roles in mass displacement across the United States by conducting real estate market analyses of to-be-gentrified neighborhoods. A tree shows its true self by the fruit that it bears. If our NYC Cultural Plan is affiliated with trees like James + Linn and BJH, then what fruit will our cultural plan bear?
I have hope that community voices will continue to demand equitable housing justice and cultural preservation. I dream of us organizing a call-to-action that clearly demonstrates our feelings about and needs from the NYC Cultural Plan. I envision us creating a Budgeting Committee for the Plan. As we stand in our truth together, I trust elected officials to listen and provide sustenance to the organizations preserving NYC arts and culture.
I am not alone in my skepticism and need for clarity from the NYC Cultural Plan committees and Department of Cultural Affairs. Performance artist and activist Alicia Grullón attended the Bronx Cultural Planning Meeting in January of 2017 and shared her thoughts with HyperAllergic:
...‘most residents in POC communities and housing activists have not heard of this [cultural] plan,’ and ‘these sessions seem to be aimed at organizations and college-educated, working professionals.’ She asked, ‘Isn’t arts and culture collectively owned by the people?’ When economic development has played a role in organizing arts and culture in the city people have been displaced, Grullón observed, citing the building of Lincoln Center and Central Park. ‘The value is in the people, not the price of the land.’
In her article The Necessity for the NYC Cultural Plan to Address Equity Among City-Funded Arts Group, Nicole E. Reiner expresses concern with the NYC Cultural Plan committee’s refusal to incorporate “...the dismal findings of last year’s mandatory diversity survey [of NYC arts organizations] … [in] the cultural planning process, nor will it [be included in] organizational funding decisions…” The refusal to implement diversity survey findings is a blatant way of saying, “We will not consider racial inequity when providing monetary resources to arts and cultural organizations in NYC.”
Even though the NYC Cultural Plan has shown itself to be negligent of the displacement, cultural erasure, domestic terrorism, and exploitation perpetuated by the very mayor who introduced its inception, this quote from Grace Lee Boggs’ The Next American Revolution inspires a continued investment and investigation into the Plan for the sake of cultural preservation for and by our communities:
Reality is constantly changing and you must be constantly aware of the new and more challenging contradictions that drive history.
A constant awareness of events and legislation that directly affect us will ensure that we have the resources necessary to implement our needs into the NYC Cultural Plan. I call arts and cultural organizations to create a Budgeting Committee for the NYC Cultural Plan. While we can continue to suggest recommendations for the NYC Cultural Plan in open meetings until May 2017, we need our own organized force to demand equitable funding. As the Budgeting Committee for the NYC Cultural Plan we would work to provide stability to arts and cultural organizations currently preserving local arts and culture on short-term grants and limited resources.
Anthony Rosado analyzes the NYC Cultural Plan in an effort to “preserve the rich, vibrant culture of our city that our ancestors gardened.”